The Bullroarer - Saturday 1 December 2007

ABC - Big jump in SA power prices

The average South Australian electricity bill will rise by about $50 a year from January. The Essential Services Commission has released its final report on pricing. The Commission says drought conditions are mostly to blame, affecting the generation of hydro-electricity.

Chairman Patrick Walsh says there will be a 6.8 per cent increase from January 1 in SA. "They've increased because the drought has meant that, particularly in the eastern states, much of the hydro capacity is no longer available and some generators have not been able to operate because they've lacked fresh cooling water," he said.

The Age - Power shocker — $160 rise

WorldChanging - Kevin Rudd, Australia's New Prime Minister

After Gutenberg - Don’t Write Us Off Quite Yet

SMH - Independence in emissions trading urged by Ross Garnaut. I prefer carbon taxes to cap and trade but at least it sounds like they may auction permits.

AN INDEPENDENT body similar to the Reserve Bank should manage emissions trading to ensure "political interference" does not stymie its effectiveness, the incoming government's climate change adviser says.

Ross Garnaut warned yesterday that climate change was a "diabolical policy problem" and that Australia stood to be damaged more than any other developed country because of its already hot, changeable climate and proximity to developing countries expected to be hit hard by global warming.

"Business as usual is carrying the world towards high risks of dangerous climate change faster than seemed to be the case a short while ago. The need for an effective policy response is more urgent than we thought," he said.

The Age - Rural Australians to pay price for climate change

SMH - Aussie corporates join climate call

The Age - Australian carbon tax 'unavoidable'

The Australian - Lib leader Nelson to back Kyoto

The Age - Globally warming to global warming

OVER the past 12 to 18 months, global warming has dominated political, economic and legal debate. Climate change-related trends that will alter workplaces, careers, business and management over the next few years are emerging. When I started writing about it years ago, I was told it was a marginal, and most definitely a non-business, issue. Now it has become one of the most prominent matters in business leaders' minds.

The first big trend is climate change politics. Two years ago, no one would have predicted that climate change would have helped change a government here. In a lecture delivered this week at the University of Melbourne, David Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize winner and professor of history at Stanford University, said the political consequences of global warming — particularly with its impact on the western and south-western states of the US — could determine the next presidential election.

SMH - Beware Kyoto penalties, UN warns Australia

THE United Nations' chief climate negotiator says the Rudd government's decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol is more than symbolic - and warns it faces penalties if it fails to meet its targets.

Yvo de Boer applauded the decision to ratify the protocol, and said it would make "a big difference" to Australia's standing at global climate talks in Bali which begin on Monday.

But he warned that if it fails to meet its greenhouse gas emissions target, "Australia is stepping into a legally binding international instrument that would oblige [it] to meet its target and it has penalties in place if [it] were to fail to do so."

Mr de Boer, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the Herald: "I think the international community will very much appreciate Australia's decision to ratify Kyoto." The decision will break Australia's longstanding backing of the Bush Administration, which has opposed the Kyoto Protocol because it sets binding targets for developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Australian - BHP snubs SA carbon reductions

BHP Billiton has distanced itself from South Australia's ambitious greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy targets, vowing to use the "most economic" power source for its massive Olympic Dam expansion. On a hot, dry day in Adelaide, new chief executive Marius Kloppers said the company's "local" operations - dominated by the proposed Olympic Dam expansion 600km north of Adelaide - would not be singled out to generate greenhouse gas reductions.

Mr Kloppers rejected "any specific item" in BHP's portfolio of 33 current and proposed projects, including an expanded Olympic Dam, as producing emissions cuts. "What we need to do is deploy every dollar in the most effective way - not target it towards any specific item which might, or might not, be the most effective one in the portfolio," he said. Mr Kloppers' stance was backed by chairman Don Argus, who was asked if he would like to see significant renewable energy supply an expanded Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine. "We will work on the most economic way to power what we have to power in this development," he said.

With Olympic Dam already the state's biggest consumer of electricity, the proposed expansion would more than triple its power demand to about 400 megawatts.

The Australian - BHP scare campaign over Olympic Dam

Crikey - Desalination plant set to swallow money for water saving plans in Victoria

If Victorian water authorities and the state Treasury get their way, financial support for household water saving and water conservation initiatives may be diverted into supporting Victoria's proposed desalination scheme.

Following a series of secretive discussions, a decision is expected soon, before the new Federal Labor Government's water resources minister will be in a position to respond.

What's more, it's believed that other state governments will follow suit, reducing or removing support for water conservation measures to increase water demands and associated revenue to repay debt incurred installing desal plants. It may also be the case in at least one northern state water conservation would be discouraged to increase water demand and therefore wastewater discharges that can be used to top up dams.

Such a move would enable water authorities to maintain their monopoly over water storage and distribution, while allowing state Treasuries to continue drawing billions of dollars of annual revenue from the sale of mains water.

The argument from water authorities is that nothing short of their strict monopoly control of water storage and distribution will work – and desal plants plugged into their centralised systems will ensure this monopoly control continues. ...

If desal is supported to the exclusion of all other water-saving measures, we can expect everything from water rebates for rainwater tanks and water saving devices to State financial support for water sensitive urban design to virtually disappear overnight.

The Australian - Bass Strait Henry gas project expenses blow out

THE Henry gas project, promoted as a cheap tie-back to the Bass Strait's Casino development since 2005, will cost almost double its original estimates. Priced yesterday at $275 million, Henry will also be nearly 40per cent more expensive than the original sub-sea completion to which it is attached and which began production only early last year. Henry is 40km west-south-west of Port Campbell, in about 65m of water.

Santos, the 50 per cent owner and operator of permit Vic/P44, which contains Casino and Henry, said yesterday the huge increase in Henry's costs since front-end engineering and design was announced last December was the result of higher labour and material costs and the huge increase globally in prices for pipelaying vessels.

The Australian - Beach Petroleum pins hopes on Tipton West coal seam methane project

The Australian - Cooper oilfield promising for Beach Petroleum

The Australian - Argus fears sovereign fund buys will seize control of resources

The Australian - CBD Energy turns up the heat on Rudd for a solar grant

HIGH flying renewable power company CBD Energy is wondering whether the incoming Rudd Labor government will honour the former administration's promise of a $20 million grant to build a Hunter Valley solar energy facility. Shares in CBD Energy eased yesterday, partly due to doubts about the new government's funding priorities, despite its election claims of being clean, green and climate-friendly.

Mr McGowan's firm is partnering with Hydro Tasmania to build a $15 million renewable energy system on King Island, based on a container-sized block of graphite or carbon that will store energy as heat. Surplus electricity is used to heat the blocks of graphite, with the heat recovered later to power a steam turbine and generator when solar or wind power isn't flowing. Potential diesel fuel savings could amount to $2 million a year.

SMH - Pollution by coalmines on rise, say Greens

SMH - Punt on pasta reaps rewards on a fortunate patch of dirt

AAP - NSW govt told to give up on motorways

SMH - Lights are flickering for the Lane Cove Tunnel

ABC - Cyclists set to disrupt Sydney CBD traffic

Peak Energy - What do you value more - your people, or your cars ?

THE centre of Sydney would be returned to the people under a radical plan to push out cars, create public squares at Town Hall and Circular Quay, and ultimately tear down the Cahill Expressway and the Western Distributor.

The Australian - Cooper oilfield promising for Beach Petroleum

The Australian - Cooking oil gives the best biodiesel

THE troubled Australian biodiesel industry, reeling from sharply escalating raw material costs, can take comfort from a new CSIRO report that claims biodiesel is most effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions when it is made from used cooking oil, rather than tallow, palm oil or canola. The report, commissioned by oil giant Caltex, says replacing conventional diesel with 100 per cent biodiesel made from used cooking oil cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 87 per cent.

The research concludes that using pure biodiesel blended with standard fuel could reduce greenhouse emissions from the transport sector. Using biodiesel made from palm oil sourced from cleared rain or peat swamp forests boosts emissions as much as 21-fold, it says.

Caltex said the report showed a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions occurred even with a 2 per cent biodiesel blend. Caltex Australia managing director Des King said biodiesel blends also reduced emissions of very fine particles in diesel vehicle exhausts. This is a point that critics of the increasing use of diesel in Australia have used to halt any move to speed up changes in the vehicle fleet to more efficient diesel vehicles, such as those now being produced in Europe.

The CSIRO report says biodiesel made from canola cuts emissions by 49 per cent, tallow lowers emissions by 76 per cent while palm oil from existing plantations cuts emissions by 80 per cent. The CSIRO says further research is required to establish the large-scale viability of biofuels in Australia.

Earlier this month, Natural Fuels, which operates Australia's largest biodiesel plant, said it could no longer afford to produce the alternative fuel. The company, which has a $90 million facility in Darwin, maintained that the price of palm oil had doubled in the past 18 months. The Darwin problems emerged only a week after Australian Renewable Fuels closed its plants in Western and South Australia, blaming rising feedstock prices.

Caltex said it had commissioned the CSIRO report to support the development of renewable fuels.

Peak Energy - What Next For ?

Peak Energy - Strategies for approval of the iraq hydrocarbon law

Olympic Dam expansion

All good things must come to an end and that includes sitting on the fence. With declines in car manufacturing, bulk wine and horticulture South Australia is on the wane. Jobs and royalties from Roxby Downs have been their salvation. Now BHP wants to send the crushed rock to China so the jobs go to Guandong or wherever and BHP shareholders get bigger dividends. South Australia ends up with less money and a giant hole in the ground.

Here's the link again to the discoveries made since Olympic Dam, an area larger than most European countries
However they may not all go ahead without water for processing. The area will be peppered with slightly radioactive mine sites even if the primary mineral was magnetite or copper. Note the area immediately to the west was used by the Brits post WW2 to detonate A-bombs and air launched plutonium dirty bombs. Add to that the fact that Olympic Dam is the world's largest uranium deposit then the whole region has well and truly lost its nuclear virginity.

Maybe it's just my strange thinking but why not generate the extra electricity and desalinated water using local nuclear power? The plant could be located between Whyalla and Pt Augusta, proposed site of the fossil powered desal or where the port would be located for Scenario B concentrate export to China. There are existing terminals for iron ore and LNG and the shallow gulf has sufficient flow for cooling water.

Here's your choice Mr Rann; build a nuclear power station or watch the State slip rapidly down the dunny. Go visit France and look at some nuclear power stations.

Alternately, all that aquifer water used by the Olymic Dam (an amount greater than the domestic water consumption of Adelaide) could be used more profitably for almost anything other than uranium mining.

Olympic Dam uses 35Mlt of water daily, or 12,775Mlt annually, earning A$831 million in uranium oxide sales, or A$0.066/lt. They pay nothing for this water. Presumably with BHP-Billiton's mere A$17 billion profits last year, they couldn't afford it.

By comparison, Adelaide's 440,000 households use 245 litres each daily, or 107Mlt daily in total, or 39,055Mlt annually, paying about A$70 million for it.

15% of SA's GSP of A$59.819 billion, or $9 billion, comes from industry, which uses 16.2 Glt of water, thus earning A$0.56/lt, or nine times what the mining earns.

In addition, the Olympic Dam mines uses 10% of the state's baseload power, accounting for 1Mt of CO2e emissions annually. Each 1kWhr of coal-fired electricity requires about 2lt of water (and nuclear electricity requires about 2.5lt, since you're looking at higher temperatures in the reactor).

Olympic Dam plans an expansion, a tripling of uranium and copper mining capacity, with a consequent tripling of power and water use.

In a time of lengthy drought in Australia, it seems foolish to be basing our economy on things which make such poor use of water. Given that our water resources are limited, to maximise the money we get from them, we ought to close down the Olympic Dam uranium and copper mine, and expand horticulture and industry in South Australia.

It's the economically rational thing to do.

Hmmm - not so sure about your economic rationalism here.

I'd think a more rational approach would be for BHP to pay the same for their water that industry elsewhere in South Australia does (including small business) - that would enable the water market to work correctly.

Overall I think it would be best if they were asked to supply their own water (from desalination plants on the coast) and power (from whatever source they please - I'd prefer a mix of solar thermal, wave, geothermal and wind - all abundant in SA - or they could build their own nuclear power plant, given how enthusiastic they are about uranium) too.

Problem solved - the rest of SA can go back to relying on local infrastructure and BHP can behave like some foreign multinational that is above the rules without putting any financial burden on the locals...

No, economic rationalism is not about a free market, but about deliberately crushing things which you consider to be unprofitable or undesireable.

If it was good enough for Thatcher's coal miners, it's good enough for Rudd's uranium miners.

the points you miss are;

1) the groundwater Roxby Downs already uses is 300km from any commercial irrigation. Whether Artesian Basin flows (eg for outback livestock) would be improved is unclear.

2) a 400ML/day desal plant at the top of Eyre Pensinsula would enable the pipeline from Morgan on the upper River Murray to be switched off. Boomtown Ports Augusta and Lincoln would sure appreciate the water as would environmental flows in the lower Murray including the Adelaide intake at Mannum and the silted up river mouth at Goolwa.

The redoubtable Joy Baluch at Pt Augusta has hinted that it would be nice to replace their filthy lignite burning power station. Thinking about this I wouldn't be surprised if Rann joins the list of Premiers who resign rather than do an about-face. There is no magic rescue package for Adelaide.

BTW I've lived in all these areas but moved to Tassie to be cool temperature-wise.

Desalination is a costly and energy-intensive process.

Cost of desal water could easily be double current water cost and would be directly linked to energy prices which can only go one way. (Electricity cost is up to half total cost of desal water.)

Also if nuke or renewable power option doesn't get up CO2 emissions for a plant of the size you suggest would be equivalent to burning 800000 litres of petrol per day.

Effect of up to 400 Ml per day of extra salty water discharged into gulf might be a worry too.

Desal from current power plants is impossible to support from my viewpoint.

It has to be powered from renewable (or nuclear) sources - and should preferably be near the open ocean, not the gulf.

As far as ever-rising energy prices go, this is only true if they aren't using renewables - once solar, wind, ocean, geothermal power is built the costs should be pretty much static from their onwards...

Basically agree except to say that geothermal (HDR) is an unproven technology at this time like cellulosic ethanol or carbon capture and storage and is the only renewable of those you mention that could provide base load electricity.

Well, strictly speaking it's not really a renewable either but from our point of view it's just as good as.

Geothermal faces possibility of immediate and catastrophic loss of productivity and capital if underground reservoir short circuits or otherwise mis-behaves to cause drop in flow rate or temperature. I wouldn't risk a cent of my money on it.

Desal plants have high maintenance costs and relatively short life due to harsh saline environment, hence high cost per unit output regardless of energy source.

Any renewable can provide baseload power if you build enough energy storage into the generation facility.

"Baseload" can also effectively be achieved by sufficient geographic distribution and using a range of sources - its a rare moment indeed that the sun isn't shining, the wind isn't blowing and the waves aren't rolling in.

I hope that what you say comes about but it is not possible with existing technology to go out and order a renewable energy driven set of electricity sources to reliably power a largish city in the manner to which we have become accustomed.

In my view we have to stop growing our economy, have zero net immigration if possible whilst allowing for the possibility of many climate change refugees, stop encouraging women to have more babies and learn to live with less consumption and hope for the best that renewable energy technology developments occur especially energy storage.

Otherwise with BAU we build more coal or gas fired power stations and dig the hole deeper.

Co-ordinating the electricity generation grid with demand so that when one station produces less others can make up for it is something that's been done for about fifty years now.

There's no difference between "oh, there was a mine collapse at Yallourn, better ask the Loy Yang station and the hydro dam to ramp up power," and "oh, the wind has dropped off at Coldstream, better have them turn up the panels at Woop Woop."

You might imagine that with coal-fired stations rated at (say) 1,000MW, the things are pumping along at 1,000MW every minute of every day. They're not. They're constantly being turned up and down to match demand in various areas, to make up for other stations being down for maintenance or repair, or for bursts of demand in the next state due to a hot afternoon, and so on.

It's just a matter of co-ordinating the whole grid. To say "just" is not to say that it's a simple job anyone can do, rather to say it's a very technical and difficult job but one which has been done regularly and fairly well for about half a century.

No doubt this has been done for half a century with FF powered stations which more or less can be switched on as required but with renewables you cannot crank up supply if the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.

If it is so straightforward to power a largish city by renewables only then why hasn't it happened?

Inherent intermittency of supply of wind and solar requires storage technology which does not exist as yet AFAIK for base load power.

It hasn't been done because coal has been cheap and easy to do (and nuclear had side benefits like big bombs).

Storage isn't an absolute requirement - it just makes the demand management problem easier.

Kiashu's comments about the intermittency (and variability) of coal fired power stations are true - these things adjust their output levels all the time.

The same applies to nuclear plants - Ireland looked at nuclear and realised they'd have to build 2 plants even though one would meet their needs - because sometimes, they go down...

Once people get this through their heads the baseload fallacy usually drops away not long after...

On the one hand Boof tells us that Roxby Down's groundwater is 300km away from any commercial irrigation, so that (he implies) it's impractical to have the groundwater go to irrigation.

On the other hand Boof also tells us - as does BHP-Billton, by the way - that they could build a desalination plant on the Eyre Peninsula... which would involve building a pipeline more than 300km long.

So it's practical to pump water to Roxby Downs, but impractical to pump it away from Roxby Downs. Apparently, water pipes can go only one way. I thought water flowed from high ground to low, but apparently it can only flow from public ground to corporate.

Who'd've thought?

price of U3O8: $200/kg
price of lettuce: $2/kg

Water required to produce 1kg of uranium: 3,000lt
Water required to produce 1kg of lettuce: 30lt in the open, 10lt covered, 3lt hydroponics

Then of course there's the cleanup cost when your uranium mine's in situ leaching settling ponds spill. I know of no case where a lettuce poisoned anyone.

Uranium is bought by some countries, but not all, and is subject to safeguards, etc. Whereas the world trade in fresh fruit and vegetables is very free indeed, and everyone wants them.

Should Australia base its economic prosperity on a market with narrow appeal, or on one with wide appeal? Would you rather we sold to three or four countries, or a hundred?

The uranium is also going to run out one day. Whereas we can, if we set our minds to it, keep growing food forever.

Should Australia base its economic prosperity on things which will run out, or on things which will, if done properly, last forever? Are we to be like those stupid middle eastern despots who pump out all the oil, but when it runs out, they'll just have an empty desert?

That was pretty good (sorry Boof) :-)

Its not fair to say the middle eastern despots will have empty desert - the gulf states will have a stupendous collection of enormous buildings and strangely shaped islands.

And the Saudis have quite a lot of heavy industry springing up.

And they are showing signs of looking at building some big solar plants - they have the luxury of building some huge solar thermal plants when the oil starts to run out...